More than 700 Rogers Park residents turned out Tuesday night for a debate between incumbent 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore and challenger Maria Hadden.
There were no fireworks in the 90-minute back-and-forth at Sullivan High School, as candidates traded answers to audience questions – sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing – politely.
Moore touted his record as an “agent for progressive change,” as well as the clout that comes with 28 years on the job.
Hadden focused on education and inclusion, and said too many neighborhood improvements have come thanks to hard work by residents rather than the alderman.
Elections for Chicago City Council, as well as Mayor and other city offices, will be Feb. 26.
You can watch a live stream of the entire debate, courtesy of Network 49, here.
Meanwhile, here are the opening and closing statements from each candidate.
“I’m running for alderman here in the 49th ward because I want to bring an independent progressive voice to the city council on our behalf. I’ve lived in the 49th Ward for 11 years. And over the last decade, I’ve worked in the non-profit world with community organizations and local governments in Chicago and around the country to make sure that we can bring communities and elected (officials) together, so that we can have a more inclusive and accountable government, the government that we deserve.
“One of the reasons that I choose to call the 49th Ward home, is because here we value community voice, we value diversity and inclusion, over almost everything else. And I’m proud to be a part of what I see as an independent, progressive tradition of strong leadership and community.
“There are some issues where my opponent and I, you know, agree, and some issues where I think he’s lived up to that legacy. He’s brought participatory budgeting to the 49th Ward, and he also fought for a living wage. But in recent years I think he’s fallen short of being the independent progressive leader that we deserve. I’m going to be a champion for our neighborhood public schools. I’m going to stand by and abide by the referendum asking for a freeze to charter expansions or new charters. And I’m also going to work for development without displacement in our community, so that the people who live here can stay here. I believe in centering community voice. And I want to bring that independent progressive voice back to the 49th Ward, and back to Chicago City Council.
“I’m here tonight to ask you for another four years as your alderman, so that I can continue my fight for progressive change in City Hall and Rogers Park. Lots of candidates these days call themselves progressive. But words mean nothing if they are not accompanied by results that actually benefit real people.
“Working in partnership with labor and community activists I was one of the leaders in the battle for Chicago’s first minimum wage. I worked with affordable housing advocates, to require developers to provide more affordable housing. I joined forces with environmental groups to close two dirty power plants that harmed our environment and our health. I was a pioneer for community policing, fought to release the names of police officers accused of violence, and helped secure reparations for the victims of police torture.
“Here in the 49th ward, I was the first elected official to adopt participatory budgeting, to give you the taxpayer, not the politicians, the power to decide how to spend your tax dollars. I’ve worked hard to preserve our neighborhood’s diversity by creating and preserving over 1,000 units of affordable housing, and secured over $80 million to improve our local schools.
“In short, I’ve been an agent for progressive change, working with you and our neighbors, we’ve made Rogers Park a far better place than when I first took office. Our streets are safer. Our schools are better. And our business climate has improved. All the while we’ve kept our economic, cultural and racial diversity.”
Hadden’s closing statement:
Thank you all for being here for so long, for those fantastic questions. I think it’s time for a change. So, I’m not running for alderman because I think everything is terrible. I’m running for alderman because I think we have had a lot of progress. There are a lot of good things here in our community. But most of what I see that I love most, is what you’ve done. It’s community organization. It’s neighbors who care. It’s local institutions. It’s our schools.
“The Chicago that we have is one where leaders take a lot of credit for the accomplishments of others. What I want to offer you is a pedestal to amplify and lift up your work. That’s what I’ve done for 10 years, working with community organizations and local governments around the country. It’s what I want to do here at home.
“And also, I think that I want a Chicago here for the next 50 years. Joe said that words are great but results are better, and I don’t think that the results we’re getting are enough. I decided to run because I am concerned about where our city’s going. We’re facing a pension crisis. We’re facing a housing crisis. We’re facing gun violence. But these issues aren’t new. And having the experience of working with local governments, around the country, I’m embarrassed and appalled that we’ve got a City Council of 50 people that aren’t making these issues prominent every day. I want to work at least as hard as you work.”
Moore’s closing statement:
“I want to start by thanking Maria for waging a spirited campaign. Though I kinda wish she hadn’t run, I’ve got to admit competition is good. And she’s keeping me on my toes. And it’s given me a chance to reflect on how much I really love this job and our community.
“Being alderman is truly a labor of love. I could have retired, collected my pension, and secured a well-paying job. But money has never been a goal of mine. Public service is my passion. This neighborhood is my passion. Helping others is my passion. All the money in the world couldn’t match the feeling I had when I told those seniors in the Levy House that their homes were safe, and they could continue to live with their friends. Did I change the world? No. But I certainly made a huge difference in the lives of 56 senior citizens.
“My ward staff and ward (supervisor) Dan Murphy also make a huge difference every day in the lives of our residents. Between them they have 63 years of accumulated experience, and share my passion for our neighborhood. Sadly, if I go, they go, a giant loss for Rogers Park. As a freshman, Maria will have a staff half the size of mine, with none of the experience – something to keep in mind when you go to the polls.
“I hope you honor us with another four years. But, regardless of your decision, I know I speak for my staff in thanking you for the privilege of serving this very special community call home.”